COMMENTARY: How far have we come in Missouri City, Texas?
Missouri City, Texas was incorporated in 1956 in an effort to protect itself from the sparking growth of Houston. Blacks began moving to Missouri City in the mid 1970’s and made up a small portion of the population. By 1975, middle class Blacks began to locate primarily in the Hunter’s Glen area. Homes in Hunter’s Glen were initially built by General Homes. One of General Homes founders was Harold Odom, (a Black Man) who still lives in Missouri City today.
By 1980, Missouri City’s Black population had grown to 11.4% with a total population of approximately 24,000 people. In 1981, Missouri City elected its first Black city councilman and the first Black elected in a Fort Bend County major city since reconstruction. Missouri City is home to Fort Bend County’s longest serving Black elected official and one of the longest serving public officials of any race. Jerry Wyatt was elected in 1981 and continues to serve.
From 1981 to present, Missouri City’s Black population has grown to a whopping 42% more than any city in the Houston area, compared to Sugar Land where Blacks make up 13.4% of the population. In Pearland, Blacks make of 17.4% of the population.
Missouri City is also recognized as one of America’s ‘Best” and “safest” places to live by Money magazine, Jet magazine and other national media publications, and in 2000, Black Entertainment Television (BET) named Missouri City a model city for middle-class African Americans in the United States.
In recognition of significant Black population growth, the City Council voluntarily moved to elections by single member districts in 1999. Prior to that change, all council positions were elected by districts with the requirement that a candidate had to live in the district, but the whole city voted for that candidate. Council’s action corrected a situation whereby a candidate could lose in the district but get elected by a majority of voters who did not live in the district. Jerry Wyatt and Eddie Fair were the two Blacks on council when the move was made to single member districts for electing councilmembers.
Missouri City has had more Black elected officials than any city in Fort Bend County starting with:
Jerry Wyatt in 1981
Albert Glover in 1993
Eddie Fair in 1997
Don Smith in 2001
Cynthia Lenton-Gary in 2007 and First Black female
Yolanda Ford in 2013
Chris Preston in 2014
By comparison, Sugar Land has had two Black elected officials in its recent history. Pearland currently has one Black elected official.
The City of Missouri City prides itself on the fact that Blacks are well represented in city government.
For example, in 2015, Missouri City appoints its first Black city manager and city attorney.
Approximately 30% of the city’s workforce is Black. Blacks hold 38.5% of the management positions. Blacks make up 29% of our police officers; 44% of the management positions in the police department are Black…
Presiding Judge Deborah Champagne of the city’s Municipal Court was the first Black appointed to that position in 2011.
In addition, Blacks are well represented on all City boards and commissions. The chair for the city’s planning and zoning commission is a Black female; and African-Americans are also represented as follows:
• Planning and Zoning Commission – 4 positions
• Construction Board of Adjustments and Appeals -2 of 6 positions
• Community Development Advisory 6 of 7 positions
• Comprehensive Plan Advisory 6 of 19 positions
• Parks Board 6 of 13 positions
Of the five historical sites in Missouri City, two represent our Black heritage.
1. St. John Missionary Baptist Church founded by freedmen in 1869, it is the only historical church in the city.
2. The Freedom Tree; first identified in 1982 with the development of Lake Olympia Subdivision and later became a city park in 1999. It was under this tree where General Gordon Granger arrived from Galveston and read the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves.
Missouri City is home to the state’s largest and most successful Juneteenth celebrations.
In 2014, the city celebrated the opening of Thomas Taylor Parkway in recognition of Ft. Bend County’s first Black county commissioner.
Additionally, 30% of the 7500 plus registered businesses in Missouri City are Black owned and operated.
Citizens here are also highly educated with 41.8 % of all Missouri City residents having earned a college degree, which exceeds the state average. Household income exceeds the state average and home prices exceed the state average.
Without doubt, Missouri City is and will remain one of the best places in the world to live, work and play. We are fiscally sound, rated a platinum scenic city, have long standing public/private partnerships and citizen collaborations, enjoy safe streets, exude community pride, maintain pristine parks and offer first class amenities.
None of these accomplishments are happenstance, but are the result of the City Council working to meet the needs of all its citizens. It is my hope that we are proud to live in a city that the rest of America should look like. Black history in Missouri City is strong, it is solid and built on a foundation of inclusiveness.